Yatsuhashi

It was September 2001. My husband had only just found employment again after being unexpectedly fired over the summer, and we were deep in the depths of financial stress. Then, that thing happened that happened in September of that year. It was a bleak month.

We got a phone call.

The couple who had bred our Shiba Inu, Kishu, had just overseen the arrival of their final litter of puppies: two feisty females. They were hoping to place them in homes that already had a member of the family. One of them was already spoken for. There was one left. Were we interested?

Oh geez. We were interested, sure, but could we afford it? We’d been talking about getting a friend for Kishu because he was alone much of the day when I was at school and my husband was at work. And this was our last chance to give him a *sister* sister.

In any case, things were pretty grim and we could do with a pick-me-up, so we agreed to at least meet her.

It should be obvious to anyone that this was a trap. I mean, puppies. Of *course* we were charmed by her, and of *course* we went home and talked about how we could make it work.

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Yashi and Stephen in October 2001, puppies together.

A few weeks later, when she was old enough, we brought home our bouncing baby girl. Yashi was a handful from that first car ride onward. But OMG was she cute. Our little Cinnamon Cookie. Just a tiny, spunky ball of fluff and naughtiness.

She belched, she swore (in dog, of course), she murdered (birds), she stole (her brother’s bed and pretty much anything else she wanted), she ate everything she shouldn’t (toys, clothes, shoes, glasses, TIN CANS), she destroyed furniture — she was Trouble. She probably would have flicked cigarettes and guzzled six packs if given the opportunity. I can’t even recall how many times she ran away from home like a rebellious teen. The most notorious of those escapes, we found her five days later, two cities and three freeways away!

We had many nicknames for her, and I believe they paint quite a picture: Spike, Teeth, Evil, Demon, Furanha, Furricane, Tank, Goat, Weasel, Princess Fizzbitch, Beast, etc. When people saw her, they would inevitably move in to pet her and say, “Oh she’s so cute! Does she bite?” The answer was yes. Yes, she would bite. Though she was but little, she was fierce. Kishu, bless him, did his best with her (and totally loved her,) but at the best of times you could tell that his feelings about her largely consisted of “Ugh,” and “Really?!”

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Yashi (left) and her brother Kishu (right)

As an adult Shiba, she grew to a petite but solid 18 pounds, decidedly cinnamon but with obvious cream in her family makeup. And boy could she EAT. We always said she had a cast iron stomach, because there was nothing too spicy, too bold, too potentially poisonous for her.

Food or not, she ate whatever she wanted. Including, one year, an entire giant dark chocolate Easter bunny. We were certain that was going to be the end of her, but she shrugged it off just like she shrugged off everything else that should have kept her down. (She was up and jumping within three hours after being spayed. Crazy beast!) Not even eventually having a dog brother who was approximately 7x her size and could fit her entire body inside his mouth made her blink. She bullied him just like she bullied everyone else — adorably and with sassy impunity.

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Yashi and her new little brother Jiro, who did not stay little for long.

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Yashi and a much older Jiro — how the tables turned!

As she moved from puppyhood into middle age, she started to lose some of her tankiness but none of her sass. Her appearance was deceptively delicate. When it became clear that she was shrinking, but was also indestructible, I hit upon the Cuteness Singularity Theory. Yashi was immortal, I reasoned. Nothing could harm her. But you know the (totally scientific) principle of how, if you take a normal-sized thing and make a miniature version of that thing, the miniature version is like exponentially cuter, just on principle? If Yashi were to keep shrinking, and keep getting cuter, she would eventually reach a point where her smallness and cuteness were just too much to be supported by the laws of physics, and she would collapse into a Cuteness Singularity like a neutron star, thereby destroying the entire universe.

It seemed more plausible than Yashi ever expiring of natural causes.

When I left Arizona in May of 2015, she stayed behind with my son Stephen, her chosen human. By that time, they had developed a very special bond and separating them was unthinkable. She did not do well while watching us pack up the house for our respective moves. It’s heartbreaking to me that my last memories of Yashi are of watching her sink into panic and despair while her home slowly disappeared around her. I know that she and Stephen were an essential comfort to each other in that chaotic time.

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My last photo with Yashi, May 2015.

It was a difficult transition for everyone, but team YashiStephen pulled through it into a place of some calm. Stephen said at the end of 2019 that it had been a good year for him and he was happy.

But somehow, it turns out, Yashi was not actually immortal. I’m still stunned about that and I’m not sure how to process the information. I was waiting for her to cause the Cuteness Singularity death of the universe. I was not expecting to find out that she was in the late stages of dementia and fading fast. At her last vet weigh-in, she was only 10 pounds. It is a terrible situation to face, but ultimately, human caretakers have to make the compassionate decision about our furry friends’ end-of-life arrangements. I respect Stephen like hell for giving her 18 and 1/3 long years of life, and I respect him for choosing to send her off in love and snuggles.

Yesterday, on January 20th 2020, he said goodbye to his little buddy, his sheeb, his tiny princess.

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Little old lady Yashi with her boy, before the end.

You were a goodbad dog, Princess Yatsuhashi, and we love you. Thank you for taking care of my boy when I couldn’t. Sleep well, sweet beastie.

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A younger Yashi with her boy after a day out — all smiles.

Support Small Businesses

Today in the howling dystopian wasteland that is America of 2019, it is the day after Black Friday, also known as Small Business Saturday.

The idea was, ironically, originally conceived of by credit card giant American Express as a way to encourage people to support their local businesses during the holiday season. A good idea, even if the source and their motives are questionable.

This year I find myself in the position of, well, being a small business on Small Business Saturday.

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Omg it’s a book with my name on it.

I am also, as you might imagine given my last post, sort of drowning in medical bills. I’d like to call your attention to this little page detailing how you can support this indie author on SBS, and point out that there is almost definitely someone in your life who would love to be gifted a fresh new fantasy novel for the holidays.

I’m jussayin’.

Round and Round

You know that thing where you feel fine all week, but then as soon as you hit the weekend/your time off, you crash hard with some sudden mystery illness? Only you weren’t actually fine before, you were just managing to push through because you didn’t have a choice, and then when you finally have a minute to rest, your body can’t keep pushing anymore?

Yeah, that thing?

That happened to me in a big way after my rather naïve post about not having anything major on the horizon for the first time in forever. I should have known. I should have known.

The health stuff hit me hard this past June and has not let up.

The truth is, I’ve been doing my best to push through chronic pain and snowballing health issues since *checks watch* oh, about 1997. Back then, doctors told me I was too young for [insert symptoms I definitely actually was experiencing despite their dismissal] and that I just needed to focus on losing my pregnancy weight. That was, of course, total bullshit.

I’m still whirling around on the diagnostic carousel at the moment (and trapped in insurance bureaucracy Purgatory,) but there is mounting evidence that in fact I was right all along about what I tried to tell my doctors I thought was happening and now the matter has come to a head.

So, that’s neat.

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This of course is my way of explaining why I utterly, completely, and in all other ways abjectly failed to do any of the book promotion that I had every intention of doing over the summer. Sorry, Mornnovin. I love you, but you have sort of become the neglected firstborn child. Because now it is time for me to begin thinking about all of the pieces, parts, and processes that will go into bringing Book 2 to life.

While still juggling this health crap.

I do have hope that we’re approaching some answers and a treatment plan that will see me starting to feel more human soon. In the meantime, it’s book-planning season.

*endless screaming*

The proof copy of Mornnovin was supposed to arrive today, so I was pretty excited as I checked the mail. In fact I opened the door, looked down, saw a package, and literally squeaked.

Let’s get this bad boy inside!

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Well that does look pretty book-shaped. Let’s see what–

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OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!

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*screaming*

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THIS IS MY BOOK. WHAT THE FUCK‽‽‽

So yeah. Um.

I made a book and I am not calm about it. You must excuse me while I go hyperventilate.

I’m pending!

Having shared this first with my backers on my Kickstarter page, and then having taken a moment to finish screaming, I’d like to announce that my debut novel, Mornnovin, has a (tentative) release date of April 2nd, 2019.

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cover art © Scott Baucan 2019

This is obviously tremendously exciting. There’s still a lot to be done and shockingly little time left in which to do it, but let’s just all scream together for a moment, yeah?

HOLY SHIT, I’M PUBLISHING A NOVEL! LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL, REAL COVER!

So, yeah. Stay tuned for more about this VERY EXCITING thing that is happening. Like, I’d actually like to do a post about the backer rewards I’ve made, because I’m pretty proud of them and I want to share, but for right now it’s all about the fact that at this very moment, somewhere in the world, a physical copy of my novel actually exists and is in the mail on its way to me for my final approval, and how that’s so surreal and wonderful that I can hardly breathe.

 

this has been Week One proper

Did I forget to mention here that, at long last, I’m finally making a book?!

Although my Kickstarter campaign closed (successfully!) on January 4th, I’ve spent much of the month in creative limbo while waiting for the site and my bank to process the donations. The waiting was not awesome, knowing what I needed to be doing but not having the means to do it.

Following the national holiday on Monday, the funding finally came through on Tuesday, and after doing a squealgasp of excitement I got to work.

The LLC is filed and paid for; I am now the somewhat giddy owner of my very own shiny new publishing imprint. That’s a check on the copyright, too. I also bought a bulk package of ISBNs and so was able to start compiling the files for the eBook, paperback, and special hardcover copies of the novel.

Do you know how long it takes to browse 658 pages of fonts online? I do, because that’s how I spent last Sunday night instead of getting a full night’s sleep, shopping for the perfect cover font.

One of the prizes going out to my backers is a short story set in the world of Asrellion, and I’d been kicking around the idea of using some of the surplus funds to print out nice little physical copies. That idea, unfortunately, has turned out to be a bust (too cost-prohibitive for anything halfway decent) so it’s back to Plan A on that which is digital. But work on the other little bits and bobs of backer swag continues while I also try to get a handle on the business aspect of everything that goes into not only publishing but promoting a novel.

Most thrilling of all, I’ve been getting progress sketches all week from my cover artist, Scott Baucan, culminating in a surprise message yesterday that it was done already, ahead of schedule. And guys. It. is. gorgeous. I can’t tell you how much I love it and how excited I am to see it in my hand on the front of my book.

Here is just a little teaser-taste for your ogling enjoyment.

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This week I’ll be getting craftsy, and continuing work on the files to be sent to the printing company. I’m trying without much luck to untangle a pretty knotty riddle: they want my page count in order to complete the setup file and issue my cover template, but how do I know what my page count will be before I’ve seen the thing formatted as a print book?

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Now that I’ve got an imprint, and cover art, and ISBNs, and funds to pay for printing, the only thing standing between me and a spring release of my debut novel is my own ability to format the interior files, navigate the setup process, and figure out how one goes about obtaining advance reviews on a book that does not yet physically exist. This is dizzyingly exciting, but I’m also discovering that the stress and anxiety of being in charge of this whole thing myself is pretty nauseating and I’m sure I’m going to mess up something crucial.

Still. For tonight, I leave on this high:

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Guys that’s my name on the cover of a book — my book!

 

Do you like pretty things? I do.

Well, Christmas is over. The year is on its last legs, and so is my Kickstarter campaign. At 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January, 4th, this fundraiser ends for good or ill. Will we make it to $4000 by then? I think so. There’s only $1244 left to go. But we can’t let up, not yet.

This is a time of year that I always associate with beauty in all its forms. Sparkling, glittering, star-filled nights, delicious aromas, lovely chords of magical music, the warmth of love and kindness. The holiday may technically be past, but the season is not. Not just yet. It is still a time of beauty, of magic, for just a little longer. I think it’s fitting that this is the setting for the final days of this fundraiser.

In the spirit of that beauty, and because it’s all Kickstarter all the time for a few more days yet, today I’m going to show you something pretty. One of the very special rewards I’ve offered to backers at the $100 level is “a hand-made piece of custom elven jewelry crafted by the author.” So I thought I’d share some of the jewelry I’ve made in the past, to give an idea of what that might look like.

Most of the pieces of jewelry I’ve made over the years have been gifts, so all I have anymore are the unimpressive cell phone photos I snapped before sending them on their way. Here is one:

That is a pendant hand-sculpted and then finished with gold and silver leaf.

This is an iridescent bit of seashell I picked up at Cannon Beach in Oregon. I fixed it with a genuine pearl and finished the back with silver leaf.

Hand-sculpted iridescent purple lily.

Swarokvski crystals, genuine pearl, feathers, paper flowers, and a crocheted choker band.

This isn’t jewelry, but I sculpted and leafed these leaves too:

This also is not jewelry, but it was intended as a sort of mixed media rendering of Loralíenasa Raia’s falling star symbol. Here is my old sketch of the symbol itself, for reference:

And here is the craft version:

But this is my favorite. I made this for one of my very best friends, oh, so many years ago that I couldn’t even tell you when, and she still wears it. She wore it to my wedding in October.

So there you have it: a sampling of some pretty elfyness. If you like what you see here, maybe take a jaunt over to the fundraiser page and think about donating to the book. I’m so close to being able to publish this thing, and I’d love to be able to thank you for your help.

Friday morning thoughts

I knew before I started running this fundraising campaign that this is well outside my wheelhouse and I’d be groaning about existence before it was over. I’ve got 13 days to go and let’s just say I have mixed feelings about that.

Want to know what’s great? Being only $1514 away from your $4000 goal.

Want to know what’s really stressful? Still being $1514 away from your $4000 goal.

You know what, though? I really feel like this is going to happen. $1514 may be a lot of money, especially at Christmas, but it’s not an impossible amount. Just look what all those frightened xenophobes have managed to raise in order to keep the poor and the needy at arm’s length at the holiday season. (Imagine what they could have done to care for those poor souls with that same amount of money. But I digress.) There’s another $1514 out there somewhere for a hopeful, starry-eyed writer just trying to get her words out into the world. I have to believe that.

I might be feeling a bit maudlin today because of the grey weather, an immune system that’s struggling to fend off the crud my husband brought home from work, a puppy who has an upset stomach, the adrenaline crash of being done with all of my Christmas preparations, and the inevitable feelings of inertia you get when you receive word that something (in this case the arrival of a client) you were all geared up for is going to come later than expected. Tomorrow it’s fun goofing off and holiday parties and another update to the Kickstarter, but for right now I’m taking a moment to say, candidly, “Oof.”

And hey, you could help me shave that $1514 down a bit, eh?

MORNNOVIN: The Way of the Falling Star Book 1

A new friend, and an exciting offer.

As we near the halfway point, both in the campaign and in funds raised, I’d like to introduce you to another one of the characters you’ll find in MORNNOVIN.

I’ve chosen this particular introduction as a shout-out and thank you to Natasha Gonzales, who is not only a great friend but has also been one of the biggest supporters of my writing over the years. If you are of the fandom persuasion, it might interest/excite you to know that Tasha has offered to write custom Asrellion fanfiction for anyone who can show a receipt that they’ve backed this fundraiser.

This, friends, is Víelle Sívéo.

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Gina Carano appearing as the author’s facecast

In Evlédíen, the elves’ hidden new home, the Royal Guard is no longer the almost ceremonial entity it used to be in more innocent times. Its members are respected even as the need for their work is a constant reminder that those innocent times are gone forever.

Guard member Víelle (pronounced vee-yell) is all too aware of the grim reality of the world her people now live in and she is committed to keeping them safe by any means necessary. Even if, say, those means are not strictly legal.

She’s into swords, leather, duty, music, deadpan humor, her wife, and doing her own personal best at whatever she tries to do.

You’re welcome, Tasha, and thank you!

25%, baby!

The Kickstarter to fund MORNNOVIN has hit the 1/4 mark after five days.

This is good, but not great. That is to say, theoretically, as long as I secure $1000 a week of the total $4000 goal, I’m still on track. However, I can’t expect to have multiple big-number days like launch day, so there’s a chance I might see my progress peter out here.

Still, this milestone is cause for celebration! Head over to the link for an update and a cute video of my dog eating snow. And, as before, tell all your friends!

It’s here! It’s happening!

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My friends, this is a huge day for me — as a writer, as a fantasy fan, as a human being with a life-long dream — and not just because it’s snowing and I’m a starry-eyed desert rat. It’s a huge day because as of riiiiight… now! the fundraiser to gather the funds to publish the first novel in my fantasy series is live!

MORNNOVIN is happening!

Oof, you might say. A fundraiser at the holidays? That’s rough.

Maybe! But also? Maybe (I’m hoping) we’ll tap into some of the spirit of giving. Some of that milk of human kindness. Some of the holiday cheer that loves a chance to make dreams come true.

Wander on over to the fundraiser page. Have a look. Maybe save it for later if you feel so inclined. Please do share far and wide.

And Happy Holidays.

Great news, and some just news

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photo by Jamie Carey

Two weeks ago, on October 13th 2018, I had the joy and the privilege of exchanging marriage vows with the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. It was a mad, chaotic day, but I came out of it joined to someone whose perfection as a counterpoint, friend, and partner to me cannot be adequately expressed. That’s the great — the greatest! — news.

The just news is this:

With wedding planning and the last of the formal wedding responsibilities now in my rearview mirror, it’s my intention to dive headlong into the work necessary to self-publish Book 1 of my fantasy trilogy (with Book 2 to follow as soon as I’ve paved the way.) Watch this space for more news on that front as it develops!